World Music -
Show starts 7:30pm. Tickets £15.00 No concessions
2012 promises to be another landmark year in the remarkable story of Raghu Dixit. Raghu was completely unknown in the UK when his first album was released here in 2010, but since then that debut set has spent months in the world music charts, as Raghu won over British audiences with his powerful, soulful vocals and unique, rousing blend of Indian and Western influences. He played festivals and concert halls, won the Songlines Newcomer Award for 2011, and was invited to become an Artist In Residence at London’s Southbank.
Now Raghu’s back with new recordings, new experimental projects and collaborations, and a lengthy series of live shows, including appearances at major festivals including WOMAD, Larmer Tree, Solas, Honeyfest and Bushstock.
Raghu is a singer-songwriter with a mission, a one-time scientist who gave up a highly successful career in Europe to return to India to create a new style of his own, which he describes as “Indian folk-rock, with world rhythms creeping in”. He is based in the city of Bengaluru in southern India, and his aim, he says, is to bring new pride to those who speak the local language, Kannada, which is under threat as other language influences pervade. So, Raghu set out to become an international artist, singing in Kannada as well as English, and in the process publicising the work of the great Kannada poets by setting their works to new music.
Raghu’s first new project of 2012 is the download EP “Live In York” (released March 12 through iTunes and others), recorded last summer with his band The Raghu Dixit Project in a stunning medieval church that is now a venue run by the National Centre for Early Music. This is an intimate, largely acoustic set in which Raghu demonstrates his powerful vocal style and guitar work on favourites that include “No Man Will Ever Love You Like I Do”, the song that transformed his career when he sang it live on Later With Jools, to an audience that included fellow-guests Adele, Robert Plant and Arcade Fire. This set also includes a new version of the witty and thoughtful “Gudugudiya Sedi Nodo”, written by one of the great Kannada poets, Saint Shishunala Sharif. And there’s one new song, the poignant English-language ballad “I Still Love You”, which was inspired by a romantic story from another Kannada poet, written over a hundred years ago.
Raghu’s new, still untitled, studio album is in the process of being recorded and Raghu promises it will be “a hundred times better than the first one, in every aspect, in the way it is packaged and recorded. After all, the last one was made with the humblest of equipment.” This new set will include “influences that have crept into the band thanks to all the travelling we have been doing in the last couple of years – I’ve met some incredible musicians along the way and I’m trying to see if I can fit them into the album. So each song will have its own flavour, and a different sound”. So, it will involve musicians from Europe and “all over India”, with songs not just in Kannada, Hindi and English but in Tamil “because that was my dad’s language. I was in a rebellious relationship with him and never learned his language”. Now, says Raghu “this is an attempt to make peace with him. He’s no more, but it’s my way of saying sorry, through a song”.
Along with the new-line-up of his band, which now includes a flute player, the album will include contributions from the three members of Bellowhead who are appearing with him at Southbank, along with Souvik Datta, a sarod player from the Hindustani classical tradition, who Raghu first met in London. There’s also Guru Rewben Mashanva, a celebrated folk-blues guitarist from Nagaland, in the North-East of India, with whom Raghu appeared on the cult Indian TV show, The Dewarists. Raghu says they have much in common: they are both trying to promote threatened local languages and culture through songs that young people will appreciate.
Raghu will be performing the new songs, along with favourites from his debut album, at a series of major UK events throughout the year.
Along with this new activity in Britain, Raghu continues to develop his career in India. He has become the highest-selling non-film music artist in India following the release of his debut set (with many of the albums sold to fans at his concerts). He is a highly successful composer of film scores for the Indian film market, and was nominated for the Music Directors Award at the Stardust Awards for his music for the Bollywood “rom-com” hit, Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge.
In November, during the Indian music festival season, Raghu is also planning a series of special music and dance shows, with choreography by his wife, Mayuri Upadhya, who runs an “Indian contemporary” dance troupe. Mayuri has also won prestigious awards.
Raghu has enjoyed international success over the past year, but he has had a lengthy and sometimes difficult career. Born into a conservative family in Mysore, he was encouraged to study Indian classical dance (at which he excelled) but his father banned him from listening to Western music, wearing jeans or playing guitar. At Mysore University, where Raghu secretly learned to play guitar, he achieved the highest marks for his year in microbiology and later worked in Belgium as a pharmaceutical researcher for a major corporation. But he gave up his successful career as a scientist to become a musician, returning to India to spend seven years working as a software-writer and composer of jingles as he saved up the money to record his debut album, released in India in 2007. The years of struggle have paid off. Raghu Dixit is rapidly becoming a highly original Indian superstar and one of India’s most exciting cultural exports.